Worthing father welcomes inquiry into special education provision

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A parliamentary inquiry into the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) scheme has been welcomed by a father whose daughter has autism spectrum disorder.

Martin McCabe, 36, of Kithurst Crescent, Worthing called for better administration of SEND cases in a system that is ‘creaking from the enormous strain it is under’.

The SEND system identifies children with special educational needs or disabilities and offers tailored support to them as well as their parents and carers, both at home and at school.

In 2014, the government introduced changes to the system to make it simpler and more consistent, as well as giving families more say about their children’s care.

The current inquiry, which stopped taking written comments last Thursday, will look at the success of reforms.

Mr McCabe, who was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Castle ward in May’s Worthing Borough Council elections, said his daughter Gracie, three, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder – ASD – in July, 2017.

“The process of getting our daughter a SEND school place was fraught with administrative errors and incredibly stressful,” he said.

“There seem to be whole parts of the system that don’t speak to one another.”

Mr McCabe said he was told to apply for mainstream schools which would have been unable to meet Gracie’s needs before she was finally placed in a SEND school.

“The whole process felt like a futile waste of time and energy for everyone involved and some families aren’t as fortunate,” he said.

“Parents know their children best and they need to be listened to far more when allocating SEND provision.

“With specific SEND school places limited and mainstream schools facing challenges in funding, there is a real danger that children with a range of additional needs are left out of the conversation. We cannot let that happen.”

Speaking at the launch of the inquiry, committee chairman Robert Halfon MP acknowledged the need for an investigation.

“There are rising concerns about the quality and access to SEND provision which the Committee want to explore in this inquiry,” he said.

“The Committee’s current inquiry into alternative provision has heard considerable evidence that children with special educational needs are disproportionately excluded from school and over-represented in alternative provision.

“All children deserve to access good quality education that meets their needs and supports them to learn.”

West Sussex County Council offers information on its ‘local offer’ through its website, allowing parents to see what SEND services and events are in their area.

Mr McCabe believes improvements are needed at a local level and called for greater efficiency in commissioning school places and greater investment in educational psychologists in West Sussex and across the UK. A spokesman for the Education Committee said the next stage was to invite witnesses to give oral evidence, with the aim being to conduct some of these meetings before the summer recess at the end of July.